How Do Ceramides Compare To Retinoids?

Due to their advanced anti-ageing and skin-smoothing properties, ceramides and retinoids are hot topics in the world of beauty, and they’re highly sought after.

These two clinically proven ingredients offer unique properties that target different skincare concerns. However, they can also work in harmony to provide even more benefits.

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are fatty molecules known as lipids, that make up more than 50% of the skin.

“Think of them as the cement between your skin cells,” says Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8. “They help keep the skin barrier strong and healthy by preventing environmental aggressors from getting in, while simultaneously preventing trans-epidermal water loss.”

Over time, ageing and sun damage impact the quality and quantity of ceramides, which can result in the skin becoming dry, rough, visibly wrinkled, red and irritated. Replenishing those ceramides by adding them to skincare keeps the skin hydrated, supple and firm, resulting in a more youthful appearance.

What are retinoids?

‘Retinoids’ is the umbrella term for vitamin A molecules in all their various forms, including retinol and retinal.

Retinoids are well-known for their anti-ageing properties, which they achieve by increasing skin cellular regeneration and collagen production. This action helps to smooth the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and texture while also helping to fade dark spots and prevent breakouts.

So, how do ceramides and retinoids differ?

Ceramides are a selection of lipids that sit within the upper layers of the skin. As we age, the skin's natural production of ceramides begins to slow down, resulting in common signs of skin ageing including dryness, fine lines and wrinkles. Using ceramides in skincare can help to replenish the skin's natural protective barrier, and they are essential for retaining water, regulating cells and helping to repair the skin's natural protective shield.

The gold-standard in anti-ageing, retinoids help to stimulate collagen production and skin cell renewal, to reduce the appearance of deeper wrinkles while improving the skin's tone and elasticity. They can also help to decrease melanin and sebum production for minimised blemish formation and a more even skin tone.

Ceramides vs retinoids: which is better for your skin?

Choosing between ceramides and retinoids very much depends on your skin type and any skin concerns that you want to address.

Retinoids are most effective at preventing and targeting acne and breakouts.
It helps to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores, which can help prevent blemishes and spots from forming. Medik8 Crystal Retinal has a unique antibacterial action on the skin, for targeted skin clarity benefits.

Retinoids are best at reducing visible signs of ageing.
It helps to stimulate the metabolism of skin cells and encourages collagen production. As a result, wrinkles and age spots appear visibly reduced for a plumper, smoother and more youthful-looking skin.

Ceramides are ultra-gentle.
Because they’re naturally found in the skin, ceramides in skincare are nourishing, moisturising ingredients that are great for all skin types, including those with dry, sensitive and blemish-prone skin.

Ceramides are particularly effective for dry skin.
They help to prevent trans-epidermal water loss to ensure the skin remains hydrated and supple with the skin barrier supported.

Can you use ceramides with retinoids?

Yes, ceramides can be used alongside retinoids to achieve even more effective visible results. The hydrating and repairing qualities of ceramides complement the advanced anti-ageing properties of retinoids, and they nourish the skin to help avoid any potential dryness and irritation.

Using ceramides with other skincare ingredients

While ceramides boast many benefits and are very effective when used on their own, they can have a greater impact when combined with these other active ingredients.

Hyaluronic acid: With its unique ability to attract and retain more than 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid can attract moisture to the skin, leaving it nourished, smooth and supple.

Salicylic acid: Helps to combat blemishes and breakouts by removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.

Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps to treat blemishes and calm redness. It also helps to encourage the skin's natural production of ceramides, and even speed up cell turnover and stimulate collagen production for a more youthful-looking complexion.

Vitamin C: Helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, enhance radiance, improve skin tone and protect against free radicals.

Peptides: Are short chains of amino acids that help to build collagen and elastin within the skin. Not just for skin ageing, peptides also help to tackle skin dullness and hyperpigmentation.

Antioxidants: Help to prevent free radicals from damaging healthy skin cells and accelerating the ageing process.

Medik8 recommends

Although both ceramides and retinoids are effective skincare ingredients in their own right, when combined they make the perfect duo. Below are a few of our experts’ favourite products from the Medik8 range.

r-Retinoate® Intense

r-Retinote® Intense night cream combines revolutionary retinoids (retinyl retinoate and retinaldehyde) with ceramides, peptides and hyaluronic acid. These active ingredients work together to produce anti-ageing results that are superior to classic forms of vitamin A.

Advanced Night Restore

Advanced Night Restore moisturising night cream is specifically designed to be used after applying retinoids, such as retinol and retinal. Featuring a skin-firming multi-ceramide complex, the innovative formula replenishes the natural skin barrier with lipids lost over time, helping to support a smoother, fuller and more youthful-looking complexion. Advanced Night Restore works perfectly alongside our bestselling Crystal Retinal to help keep the skin feeling nourished and soothed.

Crystal Retinal Ceramide Eye

Crystal Retinal Ceramide Eye
Formulated with both retinal and ceramides, this lightweight yet nourishing eye cream has been uniquely stabilised for optimum potency. Available in 3 strengths for progressive results, overtime it helps to visibly improve signs of ageing around the eyes.


Should I use ceramides before or after retinol?

Ceramides will help keep your skin hydrated and nourished while you use retinoids. The two ingredients can be used together, and Medik8 recommends using ceramides in your moisturiser post-retinoid application. For example, Advanced Night Restore works perfectly alongside Crystal Retinal to moisturise your skin with ceramides. Remember, always build your tolerance to retinol gradually: use twice a week for the first 2 weeks, every other night for the next 2 weeks, then every night. You should always use a sunscreen in the morning while using vitamin A.

Are ceramides better than hyaluronic acid?

Both ceramides and hyaluronic acid help to hydrate and repair the skin’s barrier for noticeable anti-ageing results, and they work very well when used together.

Can I use retinoids and ceramides together?

Ceramides are the perfect skincare partner for retinoids. As well as complementing the anti-ageing properties of retinoids, ceramides provide hydration and nourishment which can help prevent any dryness or irritation associated with using retinoids.